From President Finegold: Our Mission - Sustainability

Dear Chatham Students, Faculty & Staff,

After visiting our Eden Hall Campus, a group of university sustainability leaders paid it this tribute: “Each year we dream about how we can promote a more sustainable and healthy future. Asking, what if we could do this, or what if we could do that? Here at Eden Hall Campus, Chatham is beginning to answer these what if questions!”             

As we reflect on the unique opportunity Eden Hall creates and our mission to prepare our students and society to “…live more sustainably,” we also need to consider the opposite what if challenge:  what if the world carries on its current course?  As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres eloquently observed this week

“Climate change is the defining issue of our time – and we are at a defining moment.  We face a direct existential threat.  Climate change is moving faster than we are… If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.  That is why, today, I am appealing for leadership – from politicians, from business and scientists, and from the public everywhere.  We have the tools to make our actions effective.  What we still lack – even after the Paris Agreement – is the leadership and the ambition to do what is needed.”

Our ongoing work to realize the full potential of Eden Hall Campus, the Falk School, and our University-wide sustainability and health efforts help us address this “leadership and ambition” gap while showcasing how we can create a brighter, healthier tomorrow for us all. We recognize that any bold experiment like Eden Hall is still a work in progress, but we’re determined to get it right.  Doing so isn’t just an environmental imperative, but will also help Chatham and our students become an integral part of an estimated $23 trillion in business opportunities to develop new solutions and industries for a greener future.

 Some might dismiss the lofty aspirations of a small university like Chatham to take on an “existential” global challenge. However, our own legacy shows this would be a grave mistake. 

In the fall of 1925, Rachel Carson ’29, entered Pennsylvania College for Women (PCW), now Chatham University, intent on majoring in English.  She honed her writing skills in classes and by contributing to the student newspaper and literary supplement. During her sophomore year, she took an introductory biology class taught by a professor who became her mentor and changed the course of Carson’s life: she changed her major, and became a scientist, a world-renowned author, and an environmental icon who helped inspire the modern environmental movement. Thanks to her work and those she influenced, today we can glimpse bald eagles nesting nearby, enjoy kayaking along Pittsburgh’s rivers and much more.

For me, Rachel Carson’s “Chatham story” shows the transformative power of a strong liberal arts education: that engaging faculty can change students’ lives; that Chatham’s commitment to the sciences; arts; health & wellness; and sustainability & the environment were relevant then and are just as relevant now.  The world desperately needs a new generation of Rachel Carson’s, and Chatham is ideally positioned to be the school to develop them.

While the current national and global environment may not seem very conducive to implementing creative solutions to these problems, we have a wonderful opportunity to be a critical part of demonstrating a sustainable transformation model right here in Pittsburgh, transformation being driven in large part by the collaboration of universities, foundations, companies, non-profits and government committed to a more sustainable and equitable growth model for the city – and wider society -- going forward. 

To help make this dream a reality, I ask each member of the Chatham community to contribute your creativity and commitment to our sustainability mission.  Share with us your own “what ifs” about how we can operate, educate and live more sustainably as we strive to continue Carson’s legacy to help improve the health of people and our planet.

Yours, 

 

David Finegold

President

Chatham University